Tennessee lost its first game in the Josh Heupel era Saturday, falling to Pitt 41-34 at Neyland Stadium.
The Vols played two quarterbacks, dealt with a litany of injuries and lost the turnover battle in the close loss.
If you need a reminder on how Pro Football Focus works, read the opening of last week’s grades.
Let’s see how the Vols graded out.
Elite grade = 90-100, All-Conference = 85-89, Starter = 70-84, Backup = 60-69, Replaceable = 60 >
Offensive Grades (minimum of 20 plays — 30% of offensive plays)
TE Princeton Fant — 72.3 (37 plays)
TE Jacob Warren — 66.9 (39 plays)
RB Jaylen Wright — 66.8 (47 plays)
WR Jimmy Calloway — 62.5 (50 plays)
RT Cade Mays — 61.7 (74 plays)
RB Jabari Small — 60.3 (27 plays)
LT Darnell Wright — 55.9 (74 plays)
QB Joe Milton — 53.7 (30 plays)
QB Hendon Hooker — 53.7 (44 plays)
C Jerome Carvin — 53.6 (74 plays)
WR Cedric Tillman — 52.3 (66 plays)
OG Kingston Harris — 51.1 (61 plays)
WR JaVonta Payton — 49.6 (63 plays)
OG Javontez Spraggins — 40.9 (74 plays)
My first takeaways is a pretty simple one. Tennessee’s offense did not grade out well according to pro football focus. Only Princeton Fanta graded out with a starter quality performance while eight Vols were graded as replaceable.
Tennessee’s offensive line struggles were clear watching the game and showed up on the grades. Only Cade Mays graded out in the 60s while the three interior linemen were three of the five lowest rated offensive players. Kingston Harris earned the bulk of the reps opened up by Cooper Mays injury over. Ollie Lane — who graded out 46.4 on 13 plays— earned most those snaps a week ago.
Credit Cade Mays, I’ve been critical of his pass blocking abilities at offensive tackle all offseason but he was good there Saturday, earning an 81.0 pass blocking grade.
Even with Jalin Hyatt out the Vols still didn’t rotate much at receiver. Velus Jones Jr. played just 15 snaps, earning a 64.2 grade.
Ironically, both of Tennessee’s quarterbacks graded out the same.
Defensive Grades (minimum of 24 plays — 30% of defensive plays)
DT Matthew Butler — 90.9 (63 plays)
DE Tyler Baron — 76.2 (47 plays)
STAR Theo Jackson — 72.9 (79 plays)
DT Elijah Simmons — 72.3 (44 plays)
LB Juwan Mitchell — 69.1 (58 plays)
CB Alontae Taylor — 67.0 (80 plays)
CB Warren Burrell — 66.2 (83 plays)
DE Ja’Quain Blakely — 66.1 (49 plays)
DE Caleb Tremblay — 65.1 (34 plays)
LB Aaron Beasley — 60.6 (27 plays)
DE Roman Harrison — 58.6 (41 plays)
SS Jaylen McCollough — 55.2 (83 plays)
LB Jeremy Banks — 55.1 (52 plays)
FS Trevon Flowers — 53.4 (83 plays)
LB Solon Page III — 46.4 (32 plays)
The defensive grades look a good bit like they did last week with defensive lineman and Theo Jackson leading the way at the top. Matthew Butler was fantastic in the run game, recording seven tackles and 1.5 for a loss.
Three of the Vols top four performers were defensive lineman and that number shoots up to four out of five if you count Da’Jon Terry who played 23 snaps. The interior of Tennessee’s defensive line appears to be the strength of the defense throughout two weeks. If Byron Young can be effective rushing the passer like Tyler Baron then the Vols could have themselves a pretty good defensive line.
Tennessee still played its backup linebacker a lot Saturday but not nearly as much as week one.
I said last week that UT’s safeties that struggled last season faced their first real test against Pitt. Playing all of the snaps, McCollough and Flowers struggled with two of the Vols’ worst four grades.